A_010913NZHAGSPEED05.JPG John Williamson says more police are needed on the roads to deter reckless driving. Photo / NZME
Anyone watching a televised rugby match these days will be impressed by a number of factors.
Firstly, the speed, skill and mobility of players compared to previous generations, and secondly, a real change in the attitude and approach of both officials and the culture surrounding the sport itself towards dangerous play, particularly relating to players' heads.
The latter is driven by a greater focus on safety in general, but also by the alarming increase in brain issues and early-onset dementia of retired players.
Red and yellow cards are a regular feature, and many of us armchair critics often wonder about the deliberateness of foul play - whether that contact with the head was as much the fault of the player being tackled as the tackler.
The answer across the board seems to be, 'doesn't matter- any contact with the head and you're in trouble'.
A player getting a red or yellow card is likely to make a coach pretty grumpy because their behaviour, the penalty and the ensuing consequences have weighty implications for the rest of the game.
There's a clear incentive for the player to improve both their behaviour and their technique - but what about bad behaviour on the road?
For many commercial drivers, technology has been developed that gives employers of professional drivers the opportunity to monitor and improve driver behaviour.
Listed company EROAD provides "best in class driver analytics from onboard technology" to its customers, and it reports a 38 per cent reduction in the frequency of speeding events from its users.
This sort of monitored driver behaviour flows through into performance appraisals, and means drivers can be incentivised or disciplined for safe or unsafe driving, respectively.
That sort of technology and environment is not available to the ordinary driver.
We have road rules and regulations which we are expected to comply with, alongside fines and penalties if we are caught breaking them.
Two questions arise here. First, the schedule of fines and penalties hasn't been revised since 1999 - why not? Then we have the adjacent question: how effective are these fines, demerits and other driver penalties at changing driver behaviour anyway?
There is no doubt that the 1999 schedule is way out of date and ineffective in its message to risky drivers.
It's also well out of alignment with other countries. Inflation alone has been 68 per cent since 1999, which would make the most common fine of $30 (for exceeding the speed limit by 10km/hr) worth $50 today.
The average fine in Australia for that minor offence is $165, which could increase to $335 if the offender is caught in the Australian Capital Territory.
There is also a trend with more serious driving offences which indicates that New Zealand's penalties for unsafe driving are way out of line with both the severity of the offence and international practice.
We can best describe a driving offence penalty in New Zealand as a slap on the hand with a wet bus ticket, and well overdue for review.
But just how effective are fines and penalties at modifying bad driver behaviour?
International research on this is sparse and broadly inconclusive. One review of multiple studies published in 2016 indicated a small reduction in fatal accidents was associated with increased penalties varying from 1 to 12 per cent.
Really though, these reported and researched outcomes were all over the place.
An extensive Belgian study concluded that the level of fine or penalty for dangerous driving is of no great consequence because bad drivers consider that the risk of getting caught is pretty slim.
The biggest deterrent for these drivers is a greater police presence on the road. We certainly need more cops out there.
For many young drivers, the fact of a driving fine and demerit penalty which may not be paid has been well identified by the AA Research Foundation as potentially the first step for many youngsters into the criminal justice system, and may foreshadow a spiral into criminality.
So avoiding the fine, or at least paying it, means a greater chance of employment and a pathway to a successful future.
There's another issue with enacting the licence suspension once the limit of 100 demerit points is exceeded. The system is so cumbersome that some recidivist bad drivers are waiting for long periods (some up to 1000 days!) for their licence to be officially revoked - and they are still driving in the meantime.
The whole driving fine and penalty system needs a thorough review if we are serious about the "Road to Zero" road safety strategy. It's time to get rid of the wet bus ticket.